By Julieanne Acosta, July 4 2022—
On June 22, Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides announced the New Beginnings Bursary which will reward 3,000 students with $5,000 in financial aid over the upcoming three years — investing $15 million overall.
“In order to meet the growing labour market needs, we need to continue to support our post-secondary institutions as they educate and train students for jobs in Alberta,” said Nicolaides at a press conference at Bow Valley College. “Albertans deserve access to the funding they need to be able to access post-secondary education. Because simply put, all Albertans deserve to have access to higher education no matter their background.”
The bursary is a non-repayable one-time financial grant and can only be awarded to Albertans studying in one of the qualified high-demand programs in a publicly funded post-secondary institution in Alberta as outlined in Alberta’s Recovery Plan.
The applicable programs — some of which include aviation, finance, mechanical and computer engineering — are indicated on the Alberta Student Aid website. Alberta Student Aid will automatically select and provide the bursary to those selected through the full-time student loan applications for 2022 to the 2023 year and by applying the bursary eligibility criteria. As there will be more eligible applicants than the number of bursaries available, the recipients are selected on a first come first serve basis.
In an interview with the Gauntlet, University of Calgary’s Students’ Union (SU) President Nicole Schmidt expressed how while this is a positive step for students, there are still shortcomings with the bursary.
“I know both myself and the SU are supportive of any investment that supports students, especially students living on low income,” said Schmidt. “That being said, students who are coming to the U of C will face a new beginning in a different sense. They’ll pay at least 25 per cent more tuition [and if] you’re a new engineering student [you’ll pay] 60 per cent more than in 2019. So though the bursary is a positive thing for low-income students, it needs to be factored into the reality that students will be paying much more in tuition this year.”
Schmidt notes the provincial cuts to post-secondary institutions have significantly impacted students and the bursary should not be based on a student’s program of study.
“The provincial government has already cut $600 million from post-secondary education over the last few years so a $15 million investment, while welcome, is a drop in the bucket at this point,” said Schmidt. “[Nicolaides] said that costs should never be a barrier to achieving your ambition. However, the province has created barriers by cutting post-secondary funding substantially since taking office.
“My biggest concern with the bursary is that it’s really disappointing to see the government pick winners and losers by only making students and certain programs eligible for the funding despite having financial aid,” Schmidt continued. “If a student is accepted to any program and demonstrates financial need, what they choose to study should not be a barrier in any way. As [Nicolaides] said in his news conference, all Albertans deserve to have access to higher education, no matter their background.”
To learn more about the New Beginnings Bursary and how to apply, visit the Alberta Student Aid website.